Wicked Lovely

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr Read Free Book Online

Book: Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr Read Free Book Online
Authors: Melissa Marr
Tags: Fiction, Romance, Juvenile Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy
ravens squabbling over carrion—"poor dear's out cold."
    Pretending she wasn't worried never worked; showing concern never worked, so Donia looked toward the thicket, trying to change the topic before she asked how badly it had gone for Keenan. "And where are your lackeys tonight?"
    Beira made a "come here" motion in the direction of the copse of trees.
    They came then: a trio of enormous shaggy black goats rounded the corner with three of Beira's faithful hags astride them. Though they were withered things—looking like the mere husks of women—the hags were eerily strong, able to rend the limbs from even the eldest mountain trolls. They terrified Donia as they cackled like mad hens and paraded around the yard—as if they dared Keenan's waiting guards to come closer.
    Donia stepped up to the porch rail, away from Beira, closer to the wretched women who served the Winter Queen. "Looking lovely, Agatha."
    Agatha spat at her.
    It was foolish to taunt them, but Donia did it every time they came around. She had to prove, to herself and to them, that she wasn't intimidated. "You do realize that it's not you who keep the guards at bay?"
    Of course, it wasn't her threat either that made the guards keep their distance. If Keenan said they should approach, they would. Her desires be damned. Their injuries and deaths be damned. Keenan's will was all that mattered to them.
    The hags scowled at her, but they didn't answer. Like Keenan's guards, Beira's lackeys kept their distance from her. No one wanted to anger Beira, except Keenan.
    Talk about dysfunctional families. Both Keenan and Beira protected her, as if the other one were a worse threat.
    When the hags refused to say anything, Donia turned back to Beira. "I'm tired. What do you want?"
    For a moment Donia thought she'd been too blunt, that Beira would lash out at her. The Winter Queen was usually as calculating as Keenan was capricious, but her temper was a truly horrifying thing when she did release it.
    Beira only smiled, a characteristically frightening smile, but less dangerous than anger. "There are those who'd see Keenan happy, those who want him to find the girl who'll share the throne with him. I do not."
    She let the full weight of her chill roll off of her; it slammed into Donia, leaving her feeling like she was being absorbed into the heart of a glacier. If she were still mortal, it would kill her.
    Beira lifted Donia's almost-limp hand and wrapped it around the staff, under her own frigid hand. It didn't react, didn't change anything, but the mere touch of it brought back the memories of those first few years when the pain was still raw.
    While Donia was struggling to breathe, Beira continued, "Keep this one from taking the staff, and I'll withdraw my cold from you—free you. He can't offer you that freedom. I can. Or"—Beira traced a fingernail down the center of Donia's chest in a perverse mockery of a caress—"if you'd rather, we can see how much cold I can push through you before it uses you up."
    Donia might be able to direct the chill, but she couldn't contain it. The cold poured out, answering Beira's touch, making quite clear who had the power.
    In a ragged voice Donia said, "I know my place. I convince her not to trust him. I agreed to that when I took up the staff."
    "Don't fail. Lie. Cheat. Whatever. Don't let her touch the staff." Beira flattened her palm on Donia's chest, fingers slightly curled, nails scraping skin through Donia's blouse.
    "What?" Donia stumbled forward, trying to flee Beira without angering her further, trying to make her thoughts focus.
    There were rules. Everyone knew them. They sucked for Keenan, but they were there. What Beira suggested was far outside the rules.
    Beira let go of the staff and wrapped her arm around Donia, holding her up, and whispered, "If you fail me, it's well within my power to take away this body of yours. He can't stop me. You can't stop me. You'll be a shade, wandering, colder than even you can imagine.

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